Are Contraception and Abortion Siamese Twins?
I have the greatest respect for Dr. Paul Marx, founder of Human Life International. He has produced much good material which argues for the sanctity of human life and exposes the evil of infanticide (via abortion) and euthanasia. But the gentleman exceeds appropriate bounds when he argues that “widespread contraception always leads to abortion” (1999, 9), though he concedes this charge may be “difficult to prove scientifically.”
In reality, his argument is a non-argument. He might as well contend that people who engage in sexual activity are more likely to procure abortions than those who do not! This is a truism. But sexual activity per se does not always lead to abortion.
The fact of the matter is, Dr. Marx is a Roman Catholic scholar; he thus has an intrinsic bias against contraception. One is not surprised, therefore, that he attempts to make a connection between artificial methods of birth control and abortion. The Roman Catholic position on this issue is as follows: “It is perfectly ethical to limit the family, if the method is self-control by abstinence and continence. What the Catholic Church forbids is the limitation of the family, or contraception, by chemical, mechanical or other artificial means” (Conway 1929, 339).
In his Encyclical Letter, “Humanae Vitae” (Of Human Life), “Pope” Paul VI asserted that there is an “inseparable connection” between sexual union and procreation. That statement simply is not true. There is no biblical evidence to support this affirmation.
This dogmatism on the part of the Roman Church is wholly arbitrary. Note this logic: The “control” of one’s family size is either morally permissible, or it is not. If such is not biblically sanctioned, then a married woman must not practice birth control in any way; she may use no procedure (natural or otherwise) to prevent conception.
On the other hand, if the limiting of one’s family size is divinely allowed, then the method of that control is optional (provided that the termination of a human person is not involved). In cases where only conception prevention is involved, no one has the right to dictate a particular method (e.g., total abstinence or the “rhythm” method).
While it is true that one of the functions of the marriage relationship is to accommodate the production of offspring (cf. Genesis 1:28; 4:1; Psalm 127:3-5), that is not the entire design of sexual congress. Consider the following factors:
(1) If sexual intercourse within marriage is solely for the purpose of conceiving children, then married couples are required to produce children as frequently as they are able. Conversely, couples who know they are incapable of having children, would be obliged to refrain from sexual intimacy.
(2) If the solitary design of sexual union for married couples is child conception, one is bound to wonder why the Lord did not create within the woman a “heat” period (as with animals), so that she could engage in sexual intercourse only at certain biological seasons. Humans are obviously distinguished from animals in this respect.
(3) In a context where marital unions are discouraged due to impending persecution, Paul states that if one is unable to contain his sexual desire, he may proceed with marriage in order to prevent fornication (see 1 Corinthians 7:1ff).
There is an implication in the apostle’s instruction: whatever it is that motivates one to yield to fornication (which condemns) may be properly fulfilled within the marriage bond. But what drives a non-married couple to commit fornication? Certainly not, as a general rule, the desire to beget a child. The driving force is a longing for sexual intimacy.
The implication of Paul’s admonition, therefore, is this: within marriage, the sexual relationship may be enjoyed simply for its pleasurable aspects. Sexual satisfaction and procreation are not inseparably joined; sexual union and child conception are not Siamese twins!
(4) There are other factors. A man is obligated to provide for his own family (1 Timothy 5:8). No one is required to produce children for which he is unable to adequately provide. And yet, this Catholic doctrine of “no contraceptives” has been responsible for the conception of multiplied thousands of unplanned and unwanted children that have become the lot of others to care for (via government assistance, wellfare, etc.). The fact is, Roman Catholic teaching in this regard is probably responsible for the acceleration of abortion—as much as these good people theoretically oppose the horrible practice.
(5) Frequently a woman’s health is an issue relative to the number of children she should bear. Shall a woman be forced to jeopardize her physical welfare simply to satisfy the demands of a conclave of bachelors in Rome?
(6) The Catholic clergy makes much ado about the use of “artificial” devices to facilitate birth control. But by what spiritual criterion does one determine that the use of some artificial devices to accommodate physical needs are permissible (e.g., eye glasses, hearing aids, etc.), and yet, the use of other material devices (to assist with physical needs) are prohibited? It is a manifestation of arrogance to set oneself up as a pontificator of such matters.
Finally, however, we must offer this word of caution. No birth control device should be employed which destroys the life of a fertilized ovum. Yet, in many places, both abortion (intrauterine murder) and infanticide (post-birth murder)—really an artificial distinction—are accepted forms of birth control. These evils must be opposed in vigorous (non-violent) ways. If a contraceptive device is known to cause the termination of a fertilized ovum (e.g., the intrauterine device [IUD] and certain forms of oral contraceptives), such should not be utilized by the Christian. This is a matter that surely warrants careful study. (For further information, see www.epigee.org and Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?.)
And so, while abortion is a crime against humanity that must never be condoned, this horrible practice is not to be confused with any ethical means of limiting the size of one’s family. The theology of Catholicism must not be allowed to cloud the issue.
Scripture references: Genesis 1:28, 4:1; Psalm 127:3-5; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Timothy 5:8
- Conway, B. L. 1929. The Question Box. San Francisco, CA: Catholic Truth Society.
- Marx, Paul. 1999. The Christian News, December 13.